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Quads in search and rescue

A quad (ATV) is a four-wheeled, light vehicle (operated like a cross motorcycle) that travels on low-pressure tires with deep treads (like in a tractor). The very powerful engine (especially in relation to the vehicle's weight) and the centrifugal clutch, make the quad useful in all types of terrain, unless the frame gets stuck. Still, the fact that quads are so light (unlike the off-road cars) makes them easy to be pulled out of all traps, such as ditches, mud or fresh snow.

Quads are known all around the world and they have originally been used in army, which needs to travel fast during combat action.

The shepherds in Island (and not only there) frequently use quads while herding big flocks of sheep on endless pastures. Those vehicles are much better, tougher and quicker than horses, which had been used for this purpose before. In the Canadian forests quads have been used for years to transport timber on narrow paths.

It is also police in many countries that finds quads extremely useful in patrolling beaches and woods in touristic areas.

Quads were introduced in Poland some years ago thanks to a couple of their fans (such as Jacek Bugajski or Rafal Sonik).

At the beginning quads were treated only as a toy for people who had money to burn. Only after some years, when the used (and definitely cheaper) vehicles appeared on the Polish market, the sport became very popular among people that were passionate about automotive sports and wanted to prove their skills in a difficult terrain.

The first quads tested in mountain rescue were Honda TRX 400 and Suzuki 250. The tests were carried out by the Podchale and Bieszczady Mountain Rescue Groups and by the Volunteer Search and Rescue of Jura. The vehicles made a huge impression on the rescuers, who were suddenly able to get to the searched person much quicker. Beforehand, a rescuer had needed a couple of hours to patrol a hiking trail on foot, while on quad the same trail could be patrolled in not even an hour.

Jurek Owsiak, the Founder and President of the Great Orchestra od Christmas Charity, was fascinated by the idea to use quads in such an innovative way. He decided to buy quads for each search and rescue group in Poland and in order to make the right choice, he made Piotr van der Coghen a Great Orchestra od Christmas Charity expert on mountain rescue. The expert contacted all regional groups mountain rescue groups in order to find out their opinions about the usefulness of quads, while he also tested the vehicles himself for many weeks. The Head of Tatra Mountains Rescue Group, Robert Janik, decided that quads were not very useful in the Tatra Mountains, but the Head of Mountain Rescue Group, Jacek Dębicki, and the then Mountain Rescue Group's Head of Training, Mariusz Zaród, reported all groups of GOPR to be interested in using quads in mountain rescue.



However, there was no way to transport a person with a broken leg or an unconscious one on a quad. That's why Piotr van der Coghen invited for consultations Jacek Bujański, the greatest expert on quads in Poland, constructor, technician and participant of quad races. Many weeks of field tests enabled these two experts to construct a prototype of a quad rescue trailer. On such a trailer a mountain stretcher could be easily mounted as the trailer also had a roll bar that guaranteed patient's safety in case of accident.

Then the time came for Piotr van der Coghen to prepare a practical test for the vehicles of both companies that were interested in providing them for mountain rescue. He prepared an extremely difficult course of obstacles (that's what the drivers said) that went through steep uphill roads, deep patches of sand, narrow dykes and boggy mires. Both, Honda and Suzuki passed this test with flying colours! Finally, Honda was chosen because of the fact that it was homologated, thanks to which the vehicles could be registered and insured. Suzuki (of which Jacek Bujański was a representative) didn't have that option.

It was during that test that the companies were asked, for the first time, to provide the vehicles with the warning signals typical of the priority vehicles (such as e.g. ambulance).

Jurek Owsiak made a decision to buy two quads with rescue trailers for each group of GOPR: Bieszczady, Beskidy, Krynica, Karkononosze, Podchale and Wałbrzych-Kłodzko as well as for search and rescue in Jura. And so he did.



In this way a new era in mountain rescue started. It's worth remembering that the idea to use quads in search and rescue – special quads with resuscitation and orthopaedic equipment as well as stretchers mounted on specially designed trailers – is a Polish idea. It is in Poland that this innovative and, above all, effective rescue method was created, and we should all be proud of that. It's not that all modern and good solutions come from abroad...

However, the quad and trailer set was not everything that mountain rescue needed. Why? Because accidents in the mountains and in the Jura happen in a large area. Sometimes one must travel a few kilometres to get to the place where a quad is needed for a rescue operation. Travelling such distances on quads is inconvenient, quite dangerous and takes a lot of time. That's why a need arose to create a transporter that could hold a quad, a rescue trailer and a mountain stretcher. The team of experts, Bujański & van der Coghen, set off to work again and as a result two transporters were created: one for carrying a single quad with equipment and the other to carry two quads (of course both with rescue trailers and mountain stretchers). Mobile teams of mountain rescuers equipped with off-road cars pulling transporters with quads and rescue equipment, became a Polish reality.

One day the rescuers of the Jura Group of GOPR were asked by Jurek Owsiak to use the rescue quads during the huge rock concert Przystanek Woodstock in Żary. The vehicles performed so well (carrying ill and injured people through the crowd) that next year there were more than ten quads there (one from each regional group of GOPR). Since then, Piotr van der Coghen was the head of the GOPR rescue teams during the event for many years. Soon, many people realised how quick and efficient is the help of GOPR rescuers on quads and GOPR had been asked to help durin